Elk Hunting, talking shop with David Holder Part 2

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Just in case you missed part one, you can read that here.


Wilson: “I think that you would agree that bow hunting is so much more sporting because of the nature and effective range of the projectile.  Would you like to make a comment on the need for ‘fair chase’ in hunting?” 

David: “After hunting in Montana, other states and countries like Canada—I wish that in Montana Fish & Game would look at the situation.  But until you put yourself in the shoes of a guy hunting in Canada where a guy cannot walk fifty yards without getting lost in the thick forest, let alone get a shot at a bear.  I went up there [Canada] the most skeptical person in 2006 on a baited bear hunt, and now I found it to be one of the greatest hunts.  Is there a need to do that where I live in Montana on an elk hunt?  Absolutely not.  But I wish that hunters would look more at a case by case basis at what is going on.  I think that there are opportunities in Northwest Montana where we could have more archery only areas.  I am not for any type of hunting in an enclosure even if it is very large.”

Wilson: “I agree.  There is definite place where ethics trumps all.  Fish and Game can write regulations a foot thick, but if the ethics are not there then no law is sufficient.  Take the topic of radios, there is a definite place for them like where someone gets hurt and needs assistance from another hunter who he was not planning to see for six more hours back at the truck.  But if the same hunters with the same radios use them to say that there is a big bull coming over the hill, then that is a different matter based on the intent.  Ethics enforces the spirit of the regulation intrinsically, rather than extrinsically enforced by punitive measures.”

David: “It comes down to how we do it.  If someone is going to break the law, then they are going to do it.  Unfortunately that is what I don’t like because our regulations are so thick that every hunter somewhere along the lines has broken the law.   And if someone wanted to hold you to a fine line, then they can find something wrong with everything.  They can measure your horns that you have or if you have a rip in your jacket then say it is not a full 400 inches.  But it is about the common sense, and I have met those Game Wardens that realize that.  You can see certain things when you know good and well that there a whole group of people shooting out of the trucks on dirt roads, too near to housing or with lights at night.  Please understand, you are taking away from my kids the chance to hunt those animals ethically, and you are going to pay the price for that.”


David Holder 2


Wilson: “Let me take you back to the moment where you have released that arrow and you feel the whole range of emotions from that, what is your protocol?  What traditions do you have?”

David: “For me it starts before that.  The day that I do not get shook from shooting an animal with a bow and arrow is the day that I quit.  But, I have learned to control that to the point where it does not hit now until the moment after the arrow takes off.  Once that arrow is on its way and you see it hit its mark or maybe it does not hit where you want, the range of emotions can be wide.  I have learned from hunting with other people is that, number one, you have to be true to yourself.  Do not talk yourself into or out of something.  I have seen people who made excellent shots and you ask them, ‘Where did you hit it?’  They answer, ‘Well, I’m not sure.’ How can you not be sure?  Just because you do not find the animal within fifty yards does not mean that you lost that animal.  The fletching on the arrow can be deceptive due to lighting.  I try to mark where I shot him, and where he went.  Is the arrow in him, or did it go all the way through him?  In almost every situation I will wait thirty to forty minutes before I ever even go towards him. If I think that the animal has been gut shot, I will ask that we leave him until the next day.  That is I would rather find that animal spoiled, then spoil an animal and never find him.” 

Wilson: “Yes, I agree.”

David: “He is going to spoil no matter what.  A gut-shot animal cannot live.  The object is for you to find him and put your tag on him whether you are going to eat that meat or not.  That is your fault that you did not make the correct shot.  But to not be able to find him means that the animal is wasted and not able to help anybody.  With gut-shot elk, I will back way away.  There are some times where I will move in quickly like a liver shot (just in front of the hind quarter) and I will go after those elk within an hour.  It is something that you have to know, you just feel it.  When the bow goes off and you just know that arrow goes where it is supposed to.  It is almost as if God says, ‘Here you go.  You get one this time. I’ll help you.’  Me, I am the guy I have to sit down because I am shaking so badly after making the shot.  You have to give that animal the chance to die and give them that time to bleed—especially an arrow and how it is used to kill an animal.  There is nothing worse than pushing them, especially an elk.  An elk is unlike any other animal I hunt in that they can cover great distances and blood trails can be very, very sparse especially over two miles. 

Wilson: “That is right.  This is where that time during the off season pays off so well where you practice shooting from different positions at different yardages and elevations.  Because once you let that arrow off the string, you cannot take it back.  That is where those ethics really matter.”


Wilson: “Here is a question that I have always wanted to ask a professional hunter: ‘What do you occupy your mind with when you are sitting in your spot for hours at a time watching and waiting?’”

David: “I am probably a bad person to ask.  I hunt with a lot of different people who bring books, their ipod, phones or they take naps—I cannot relax.  If someone has the television on late at night, I have to watch television so that I can focus on going to sleep.  It is the same thing when I am hunting.  If we are taking a break or something, I am still watching.  I watch so many people who lose interest.  People hate hunting with me because I am not a napper.  I don’t take a break, I will move to the next spot.    What fills my mind I guess is that I am constantly thinking ‘it could happen here.’  I can envision an elk walking right up through here.  I constantly looking at my bow, repositioning and thinking if I am sitting like this then I can make the shot over here.  Take in the distances to see if they are too far or not.  That mental preparation never stops with me. 

Wilson: “Right.  Watching the wind to see that change or noticing what the birds and squirrels are doing.”


Will Primos


Wilson: “From the videos Will Primos seems like such a lively personality, what is it like being back at the hunting camp with him?” 

David: “For someone going from a $.25 diaphragm call sold in cookie jars in little packages on drug store counters to a multimillion dollar, multi-product company—Will is very grounded.  He is a very fun person to be around and he enjoys Montana maybe more than any other place (other than maybe Mississippi where he lives).  Will, I can tell you, looks forward to coming out here into the West and elk hunting.  He has had to back out on many other hunts over the years due to time constraints.  Will is not a spring chicken anymore, but one that he always makes sure that he puts in for is the Montana Elk Hunt.  He is a lot of fun.  A very faith-based person, likes to joke around and is a lot of fun to be around.  I get the rare opportunity to see Will in his working situation as well as hunting and he can draw the line and make work fun—and a pretty good elk hunter too.”

Wilson: “I noticed how he balanced both of those so well on The Truth 13 DVD where he shoots this beautiful bull, carries all that charisma and still has the ability to make the camera man feel comfortable.”

David: “And Will is who you see on camera.  That is him.  He honestly has watched Jeremiah Johnson many, many times.  That is his out.  When times get stressful he will sit down with his phone and put on that movie.” 


David Holder Outdoors


Wilson: “As a first responder professional, what can you say about safety in the back woods especially in cold weather?  Here in Montana, you can be fifteen minutes away from a potentially life threatening situation.”

David: “First off, it starts with simple things like telling people where you are going, what drainage.  Technology has come so far today that even if you do not have cell phone service, you may have service where you end up.   Sometimes that cell phone can provide a light.  Those are some of the simple things and do not rely on electronics.  I am a compass guy—I have a GPS, but I always carry a compass everywhere I go.  Also, I always carry some way of making a fire.  There are a couple of companies making some things out there that are very easy, but I still carry a candle and water-proof matches.  That way, I can get a fire started and then build upon that.  There is a 9 volt battery and steel wool or Vaseline and cotton balls, there are all kinds of things but it basically comes down to some way to make a fire, a space blanket, someway to rehydrate yourself and to stay warm.  The greatest thing that someone can do and I do not care if it is thirty or one hundred and thirty [degrees] is to stay calm.  It is the panic that gets most people.  When you start to think, ‘I need to get out of here,’ that may be what you have to do, but you are better off staying put and thinking it through.  May be you do need to move, but are you going in the right direction?  It does not hurt to backtrack as to what you were thinking and doing.  One thing that I try to teach my boys if that if you can find water—it always goes down hill.  It may take longer and be a long way around, but it will get you somewhere eventually.  I would also say that my survival pack probably does not weigh more than a pound or two.  It is worth carrying every time.  You may be thinking that we are only going to be walking two hundred yards to coyote hunt over here at the edge of this field—take the pack.  Especially here in Montana, before you know it someone may have fallen through the ice and you need to react now.”


Wilson: “One last question, do you have a Bull Elk bugle call set for you ring tone?”

David: “I do not, but my son does.  You know that is funny Wilson because I laugh when I hear people having them at the seminars.  Believe it or not, there are times when David Holder does not even have one in the truck—wait that is not true, there are diaphragm calls in there right now for emergency situations.  Everywhere I go I usually have a call and people usually associate me with calling animals.  That is the one place I have not gone to, my phone is for work and no animal sounds on that.” 


 ARO videos


Wilson: “David, thank you for joining us.  I really like your website, it exemplifies quality in every way—not to mention that I could easily kill a couple of hours browsing though all of the great videos and journal entries on there.  I would definitely encourage people to check it out at www.abovetherestoutdoors.com  Is there anything else that you would like to say as we finish up?”

David: “We would encourage people to stop by.  We are a new company and we have some new editors on board.  We hope to start filling it up here soon with more and more info about different outfitters, or not even guided hunts but public land hunts and how others can do those hunts.  Affordability, everything you want to know, shoes to wear, best ways to save some money, what are the hidden costs—we are going to cover everything.  We have launched our own channel on Realtree.tv and starting in July look for us on Root Sports, “Above the Rest Outdoors” it is a new show starting 9:00 Sunday morning in July.  We are very excited about everything that is going on.”

Wilson: “Thank you David.”


Just in case you missed part one, you can read that here.

I would encourage everyone to check out the great website resource David and his family have built.  You can contact David as well by going to his contact page. 

Is it elk season yet?

Pro Deo et Patria,


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